Soldier Robert will ask me to stop and sit down every fourth or fifth time I see him. He is usually huddled under a blanket talking to himself and smoking around a downtown McDonalds.
The other times I say hello I am not even sure he recognizes me. He is lost somewhere in his past and it is difficult to discern exactly where. He mumbles when he talks and his stories ramble all over the place, so it is tough for me to follow him.
I believe he is a veteran, because he is always talking about wars, all of them essentially.
He will say something and then ask, “Was that World War 2, that can’t be right, have I been alive forever?” The war stories are more specific when he talks about Vietnam. He will say he was a leader and it was too much responsibility and how he hated the type of men who were violent. He talks about recon and when a memory gets too heavy, he will actually say, “blackout” in a way that sounds like he is seducing his mind to forget it.
I listen as closely as possible and touch his arm occasionally and say, “It is just a memory Robert, it is 2011 and things are OK right now. This actually seems to have a small effect. I am praying that his spirit, which seems incredibly strong, will eventually heal his mind.
Please add your prayers.
Two times I protected a young kid, probably 17 or 18 from young wounded street warriors who were picking on him. I did it by confronting these guys peacefully and communicating that I loved them as best I could.
One threatened me with a bike chain and the other faked a kick, both these things caused the adrenalin to flow, but thankfully didn’t provoke me to violence. Later I heard the kid stole a bike from one of the bullies, whom I sure stole it as well. One night I saw the kid riding a bike into Occupy Portland, I said hello and he seemed happy to see me; half an hour later I saw him riding out with a scooter in his hand.
I was sure he stole it but hesitated to say anything. A couple of women signaled me it wasn’t his, so as gently as possible I asked if he owned the scooter, he said no, so I asked him to put it down, which he did.
Gentleness works people; those women thanked me for handling it peacefully. I am a little confused about interfering with the bullying, because standing up for himself is a lesson he is obviously needing to learn. I did it because bullying still triggers something in me. At the least, hopefully, I am modeling a behavior for him, and eventually I will trust enough to let nature take her course. I believe his repressed anger causes him to steal. I am sure it is compulsive, in that, at this point he doesn’t have the ability to choose not to do it.
I believe Jesus has me on the streets to open my compassion and it is slowly working.
~ November 29, 2011
Hobo John found himself homeless in the Florida Keys ten years ago and is sharing his stories with us. His story can be found here:
John wants you to know: “I’m not for the government doing more to help these folks. Their help tends to come with a lot of humiliation, stipulations, and rules, but I am for us finding our hearts again as a people and taking care of our own.”
Thanks – would love to hear from you;
— Hobo John